The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

June 1, 2014

Star Wars re-enactors bring show of Force

— DANVILLE — The Force was strong at Geisinger Medical Center’s Miracle Fest this weekend.

On Sunday, among the numerous carnival activities for children and their families to partake in was a visit from the regional chapters of the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion, two volunteer groups of Star Wars re-enactors.

The 501st and Rebel Legion are a global group of Star Wars volunteers and costume enthusiasts that have chapters around the world, with the members at the Miracle Fest covering the Pennsylvania and Delaware areas. The 501st is dedicated to recreating the classic villains of the franchise, such as Darth Vader and his storm troopers, while the Rebel Legion covers the movie franchise’s heroes, such as Luke Skywalker.

The two groups last appeared at Miracle Fest three years ago. “We’re very glad to be back,” said Rebel Legion member Ryan Miorelli, dressed as Luke Skywalker, complete with plastic lightsaber.

Miorelli, who serves as the commanding officer for the Rebel Legion’s Pennsylvania and Delaware chapter, appeared with 501st volunteers dressed as Vader, the Emperor and Imperial storm troopers. Excited children regularly stopped to point at the costumed characters and have their pictures taken with them. While a few are nervous at first, when they’re offered the chance to hold the lightsaber they know nobody’s going to hurt them, Miorelli said.

“The kids love it,” he added. “The kids get to see their favorite hero or villain come to life.”

“The adults turn into kids too” when they see the Star Wars characters, said Stacey McLaughlin, an uncostumed “cadet” with the 501st.

McLaughlin’s husband was playing Darth Vader, wearing the villain’s iconic mask and black, full body costume in Sunday’s 70-plus degree heat. He and the storm troopers, also in full body armor, all have fans installed in their helmets to keep them cool.

“They push through it. Its for the kids,” she said. “The kids reaction is worth all the time, sweat and money.”

McLaughlin is putting together a Star Wars costume herself to wear at upcoming events.

The 501st and Rebel Legion always appear free of charge and make appearances “wherever we can bring a smile,” Miorelli said.

Members of the two groups have appeared at locations including minor league baseball games, the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade, several Penn State University events and numerous libraries and charities. Miorelli even portrayed Star Wars characters at an event in Germany.

However, “hospital visitors are our favorite,” Miorelli said.

And then he ended the interview the only way Luke Skywalker could — “May the Force be with you.”

 

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